Time: Is your child’s religion mental illness?

By Drew Zahn

According to an article published this week on Time magazine’s website, your child’s “fastidiousness to religious practices” may be a sign of mental illness.

“Religion can be a source of comfort that improves well-being,” begins the article by author Francine Russo. “But some kinds of religiosity could be a sign of deeper mental health issues.”

In the article titled “Can Your Child Be Too Religious?” Russo continues, “If your child is immersed in scripture after school and prays regularly throughout the day, you may breathe a sigh of relief. She’s such a good girl. … Or maybe not. Your child’s devotion may be a great thing, but there are some kids whose religious observances require a deeper look. For these children, an overzealous practice of their family faith – or even another faith – may be a sign of an underlying mental health issue.”

The article explains therapists report seeing children and teens who dive into excessive religiosity as an unhealthy coping mechanism, a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, that’s “no more spiritual than fanatical hand washing.”

The article describes a type of OCD called scrupulosity, where children “obsessively worry that they have committed blasphemy, been impure or otherwise sinned” and warns against religious delusions or hallucinations that parents may be less attuned to “when it occurs under the guise of faith.”

Russo suggests parents evaluate whether faith is a “source of strength” in their children or whether “religious practices and rituals seem to be overtaking their daily lives and displacing their normal activities.”

If the latter, she lists a few guidelines recommended by “experts” for guiding your child through a discussion on faith and seeking counseling, if necessary.

Though the article affirms religion “can be a positive force in the lives of children, just as can be for adults,” Ken Shepherd of the media-bias watchdog organization Newsbusters argues Russo and her list of parental guidelines neglect the true place and power of faith.

“Oddly missing from that list of suggestions was attending religious services with your teen and/or talking to his/her pastor or rabbi to get his perspective on how your child is walking in his/her religious devotion,” Shepherd commented. “It’s also telling how religion is seen as primarily about what the practicing teen is ‘getting out of it’ or ‘makes him feel’ rather than an experience whereby the teenager is seeking to worship God and discover eternal truths about His character and will.”

Shepherd also criticized Time for running the article only a few days before the Easter holiday.

“On some level, this sort of foolishness is to be expected from liberal secular publications,” he continued, “but it’s rather telling that on the holiest week in the Christian calendar that Time magazine is trying to stoke fear in parents – and presumably a predominantly secular parenting demographic, given the magazine’s readership – that teens who are religious, particularly those in more conservative denominations, might not be so right in the head.”

WND Columnist Dr. Lee Hieb also has joined the conversation on the issue.

“I see this one coming. This is a one-two sucker punch let loose in the name of civil society and treatment of poor mentally ill people. The government lets us Second Amendment people keep guns, but only if we are not mentally ill – and it is the government which will define ‘mentally ill.'”

She continued, “Psychiatry is a dangerous weapon in the hands of the state. We cannot cede to the government authority to define mental health, nor allow mental health ‘experts’ to decide our fitness to exercise our constitutional rights.”

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